Black Acrobat by Golovko painting

Valery Valran, a luminary of the St. Petersburg art underground of the eighties and a participant in the largest unofficial exhibitions of Soviet times, is yet another artist who communicates chiefly through the medium of the still-life. A psychologist by profession (he has an academic degree in that field), his works are those of a thinker whose ability to give artistic voice to his sensibility has been lauded again and again by his many fans.

His glasses and bottles, painted with a skilful blend of pastels and light tones seem to float on the canvas in a haze of ethereal pastels. Thus left “holding the bag” psychologically speaking; we viewers may well have to make an extra effort to return safely from this borderline world after having just gazed on this collection of normal objects endowed with a hint of the otherworldly.

Alexander Bazarin is a talented painter who (according to Valran) has created his own iconography of St. Petersburg; transforming well-known views of the city into scenes that reflect the outer limits of a child’s most elaborate fantasy. Described as being stylistically both romantic and effusive his works abound in nursery-room tones with a particular emphasis on mother-of-pearl and striking shades of blue.

European art lovers are familiar with Constantine Troitsky, since so many of his works have found a home in the museums and private collections of France and Germany. Notwithstanding the effect of classical European art on his style, his paintings remain stubbornly individualistic in their use of the so-called “object-shadow style”. Relying on a subtle use of light and shade - the former to create the illusion of wide open spaces and the latter to underscore critical details (Pink Landscape) - his creative world also suggests a hint of the transcendent in the realm of the everyday.

Alexander Krylov is a jeweler by profession. Maybe that is the reason his paintings bring out the sensuousness and tangibility of the material world. Delightfully free, as they are, of the burden of being true-to-life, his kettles and vessels and other such objects border on the downright fantastic. Because of this tendency to glorify the universal in the everyday, his works have gained a large following in East Asia.

Gafur Mendagaliev’s works are distinguished by their southern voluptuousness. Succeeding as they do in bringing out the state of perpetual change in the world of the everyday, these highly animated works turn the greyest St. Petersburg streets into a veritable tapestry of artistic emotion.

Alexander Dobrovolsky, Viktor Tatarenko, Yuri Zenin and Oleg Yakhnin represent the Professional Union of Russian Artists. While Dobrovolsky’s talent may be said to consist of the ability to create the illusion of motion in objects that are at rest, Tatarenko manages to transpose the real into the realm of fantasy in The Circus is Tired. Yuri Zenin, on the other hand, does quite well with the still - life, managing the best of both worlds - oil and paper - by achieving the rich color spectrum of the former while achieving the “light and lively” look of the latter. This combination of traditional pigment and modern-looking medium is achieved to great effect in Violins. Eagerly experimenting with new forms and fusions, then - even going so far as to turn an ordinary spade into an object d’art that will eventually find a home in a special museum - Dobrovolsky and Zenin are constantly on the look-out to go beyond the status quo.

Known unequivocally as The Master, Oleg Yakhnin’s fame has come to function as a touristic drawing card for St. Petersburg. Having indisputably “arrived” in the Pantheon of Russian contemporary art, Yakhnin’s surreal creations achieve what is so difficult to achieve for any painter; to render a daringly original subject - through the use of an equally original brush style and palette - without calling attention to itself. The mother and infants depicted in Family are painted in engaging earth tones that are artfully blended with hues of a brighter stripe. As flagrant as is the artist’s violation of the bounds of Realism in this obviously surreal depiction, he manages here to integrate form and content with a degree of tact that renders the work patently original.

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Oleg Golovko, Black acrobat 1997, oil on canvas, 65.5 x 54 cm
Hermitage Art Center